Pharyngula sells out! »« The Mormon mentality

That’s a good question

You’ve probably already heard that Bill O’Reilly wrote a ‘history’ book about the Lincoln assassination that contains enough factual errors that it was rejected by the National Parks Service for sale at Ford’s Theater. I say you’ve probably already heard it because the media everywhere is chuckling over the humor of pissing off BillO with the ignominy of it all. Now I loves me some O’Reilly bashing, but Chris Rodda asks a very good question about that.

Why isn’t the media going after all the other right-wing pseudo-history? David Barton still appears on TV fairly regularly, and he’s far worse than O’Reilly. The Texas board of education tried to disappear Thomas Jefferson from history textbooks. Aren’t those more significant phenomena than that one lazy loud TV blowhard tried to pretend to be a serious historian and failed?

Comments

  1. niftyatheist says

    Yesterday, on NPR “Here and Now”, writer Jeff Sharlett pushed back against Robin (Young?) when she smarmily asked that he consider the “police side of the story” re OWS brutality. He said something like, “Well, Robin, I am wondering why you are talking about the “police side of the story” as if they were equal. Isn’t it our job in the media to report on things like this and shine a light on abuses of power?” (this is not a quote…I am paraphrasing from memory and if anyone can provide the proper quote, that would be great!) I think I got the jist of what he was saying and I was talking to the radio, “Yes! This exactly! FINALLY someone has said it!”

    I would like to hear that kind of thing being said much more in the media…can there still be journalists who are not corporate/government propogandists?

  2. Glodson says

    The only reason I can guess is that O’Reilly is well known. Stories about him get the ratings. But Barton, though more dangerous than O’Reilly as Barton is setting textbook curriculum, isn’t considered as big a fish(in terms of ratings).

    Now, if Barton and O’Reilly can be linked, maybe this Lincoln book could be a gateway for more attacks on the Wallbuilders and groups like them.

  3. niftyatheist says

    Here is a link to that interview
    http://hereandnow.wbur.org/2011/11/15/occupy-wall-future

    I hope it will be just a link!

    Sorry for the triple post, PZ! The above was just a little glimmer of hope I have, but your post topic is far more important. This tactic of publishing and promoting revisionist history and lies has been allowed to go on unchallenged by the “free press” for far too long. I hope there will be more movement on that front in the near future, too. People really need to be making noise! Thanks for bringing this up on your popular blog.

  4. Holms says

    For those of us who aren’t up with the latest in American politics (due to being, I dunno, Not American), what is this ‘disappearing Jefferson episode? For that matter, what is a wallbuilder when it isn’t a bricklayer?

  5. koyote ken says

    Bill O’Reilly wrote a history book filled with inaccuracies??

    In other news, the Sun rose in the east this morning……..

  6. Glodson says

    Holms says:

    what is this ‘disappearing Jefferson episode? For that matter, what is a wallbuilder when it isn’t a bricklayer?

    Explaining it all will take some time. But the short version is that Barton headed a group to excise Thomas Jefferson from textbooks in Texas and insert other lesser Founders into the mix to push the notion that the US is a Christian nation. Jefferson was troublesome from Barton has Jefferson is well known to be a Deist, which doesn’t sit well with Barton’s fictional account of history.

    Here’s a story on the Texas Board of Education. They are important as Texas is a massive state, (population and size in this case) and that size means that textbook companies will tailor books to Texas curriculum. So this will effect other states as well.

    For more on Barton, who got a big bump thanks to Glenn Beck, and the Wallbuilders, look here and here. This will give you, and anyone else unfamiliar with all this an nice overview of who you are dealing with.

    The problem is that they are actively trying to indoctrinate students into conservative talking points. They are trying to politicize education. It isn’t about scholarship and truth, it is about ideology. And that’s fucking scaring the shit out of me.

  7. barbarienne says

    Vanishing Jefferson is a diffuse, multi-aspected problem. Reporting on it requires more than soundbites and pointing-and-laughing. There are many people involved, they’re doing it in many different locations and ways.

    One blowhard making a fool of himself in one book is easy pickings. I could do a report on that in a couple of hours–less if I didn’t bother to even read the book.

  8. Tyler says

    I have heard that the bit about O’Reilly’s book being banned from sale at Ford’s Theater was an inaccurate report from HuffPo. While I havent been to the gift shop to check, it is certainly still available on the Ford’s Theater online site.
    Not defending O’Reilly’s book…just pointing it out for the sake of accuracy.

  9. says

    And yet in sharp contrast that idiot pseudo-science book Grand Canyon: A Different View is still being sold at the Grand Canyon gift shop as we type… Something’s wrong here!

  10. Nick says

    One of these stories is a Spectacle. The others constitute a Serious Issue.

    Call me cynical, but it seems evident which of the two is more likely to be covered by modern, major media outlets.

  11. nazani14 says

    It might be helpful if people who have actually read Newt Gingrich’s books would leave reviews on Amazon.com that focused on historical accuracy.
    Funny how he can write in the persona of an Irish sketch artist (The Battle of the Crater,) but can’t connect with the problems in the lives of living people.

  12. Ariaflame says

    @glodson #7

    From an outside POV Texas is obviously too big and should be broken up into more manageable pieces so it doesn’t distort things so much.

  13. sirbedevere says

    O’Reilly did a quasi-Hitler-apologist WWII book a few years ago. There was a magisterial takedown of it in Newsweek magazine by one Christopher Hitchens.

  14. eigenperson says

    Why isn’t the media going after all the other right-wing pseudo-history?

    Uh, because history is boring. If you subject viewers to boring things like history, science, or other substantive stuff, they’ll switch to Competing Media Outlet. At least that’s the theory of Big Media.

    I should say “hypothesis,” actually, because it’s not like they’ve subjected this thesis to any tests.

  15. says

    Simple – Rhetoric trumps reality. It always has and it always will. Because don’t you know that Lincoln died trying to lower the tax burden of the job creators….. He was shot by a communist-occupy-wall-street-obama-support John “Free Bone” Booth.

    Cthulhu

  16. Glenn says

    I’m not sure I agree with the premise here. However “regularly” you say David Barton is on TV — and I must admit, I have never seen him, but I don’t watch the cable news crap — surely you must admit that Bill O’Reilly has a far far bigger audience and is having a far far bigger (and more detrimental) impact on the national discourse than David Barton could ever dream of. Of course, exposing O’Reilly as an idiot is great fun as well, but I think in terms of actual importance the media has a very fair case to make here that they’re allocating priorities correctly.

  17. raven says

    what is this ‘disappearing Jefferson episode?

    Just read George Orwell’s 1984. Pay attention to what the Minstry of Truth does.

    That is the instruction manual of the christofascists. Thomas Jefferson is becoming an unperson. His writings are…thoughtcrimes. He is heading down the memory hole.

  18. Glodson says

    @Ariaflame #14

    I live in Texas and I think that’s correct. But the problem still exists. There’s some hope in that, thanks to the politics here, the new books cannot be ordered. At least, they couldn’t a few months ago. And the other hopeful thing is that if more textbooks go digital, then custom jobs become easier. That’s a double-edged sword, but it could help with this problem. Still, that doesn’t change the fact that for the kids in Texas, their education is being used as propaganda.

    @Glenn #18

    The problem is that while O’Reilly is getting taken to task for bad scholarship, the intentional lies of Barton and his ilk is being passed off as history. The danger is that people are being taught the lies from the outset instead of laughing at the errors in a book by a blowhard.

  19. Rev. BigDumbChimp says

    what is this ‘disappearing Jefferson episode?

    I believe it was episode 45. Weasie was out shopping while George was back at the apartment trading snarky barbs with Flo, when in rushes Mr. Bently who….

    Oh wait. Sorry, different Jefferson.

  20. Ing says

    For reference Jefferson wasn’t being disappeared. His writings were being removed from reference on the subject of thinkers who shaped the democratic revolutions and thoughts of colonial times along with a lot of other enlightenment thinkers. People like Calvin were promoted instead.

  21. Stonyground says

    I believe that Thomas Paine was airbrushed out of US history long ago. As I understand it his contribution to the American revolution, and the kind of republic that was subsequently established, was huge. His pamphlet ‘Common Sense’ was read by almost everyone and he gave all the profits from it to the cause. He became persona non gratis after publishing the Age of Reason which riduculed Christianity. Please set me straight if I have any of this wrong.

  22. Anteprepro says

    Stonyground: Thomas Paine and Common Sense were given a nod or two in my history classes. But, I live in a more liberal part of the country, and the same classes specifically pointed out the presence of Deists among the founding fathers. In states where science is held hostage to religious denialism, I would actually be surprised if they bothered to mention him, let alone allude to the fact that he also wasn’t Christian. That’s just my hunch.

  23. Ing says

    Which is a shame since Paine also I believe contributed to biochemistry with his writings on natural flammable gas.

  24. Brother Yam says

    Why isn’t the media going after all the other right-wing pseudo-history?

    Hey, it’s gotta start somewhere, yes?

  25. Zugswang says

    #25 Antepro:

    Growing up in Indiana and Kentucky, I still remember reading passages from Common Sense for middle and high school history and civics classes.

    I’m not sure how much that has changed recently, though, because since I’ve graduated high school, KY schools have really reduced the emphasis placed on those kinds of courses, so I’m not sure how much Paine students get to experience, just by virtue of lowered standards in different areas of the country.

  26. CWayne says

    O’Reilly has established himself with an ignorant mass that loves his output. No matter what kind of trash he puts in writing, millions will pay for it and he will amass more wealth, or at least get enough cash to pay for a few vacations. He does love hearing himself speak…
    I do wonder, the people who feel like they must buy his books because they love him so much (or whatever): when they notice that there are real errors in it: do they feel like idiots?

  27. Jockaira says

    Eigenperson # 16 says:

    Uh, because history is boring. If you subject viewers to boring things like history, science, or other substantive stuff, they’ll switch to Competing Media Outlet. At least that’s the theory of Big Media.

    I should say “hypothesis,” actually, because it’s not like they’ve subjected this thesis to any tests.

    Actually Big Media has subjected their theory to the very stringent testing of Ratings, and subsequently cancelled most substantive programming in the interest of money.

    The “Vast Wasteland” has now encroached upon polite civilisation and is in the process of advanced desertification.

  28. Art says

    Reporting has shifted from being about what is said, objective points that one might argue for or against and draw some conclusion, toward the fact that a known personality said something being the story. What is said is entirely secondary.

    A good example of this is the representation of the character Danny Crane on “Boston Legal” by William Shatner. Danny Crane saying something was the story. What was said, “Crazy for Coco Puffs” being one phrase used, was largely unimportant.

    Bill O’Reilly writes, ghost writes?, a book and gets the usual sweetheart deal to have it published through the usual right-wing publishing house. O’Reilly gets to burnish his credentials as a writer with n number of books out. All people hoping to be members in good standing in the club will go out and buy copies. Might make the top ten. O’Reilly will pick up a million or more dollars this way and there will be a lot of people getting doorstops for Christmas. Not one in a thousand will get read.

    O’Reilly: best-selling author, historian, media figure. Equal in the media eye to any.

  29. Ing says

    Actually Big Media has subjected their theory to the very stringent testing of Ratings, and subsequently cancelled most substantive programming in the interest of money.

    Except their testing is anything but stringent.

  30. MadScientist says

    I thought it would be obvious: if a godless nutcase says something, people are free to laugh at him. If a godbothering nutcase says something, you’ve got to ‘respect’ them “sub poena” as the ancient Romans would say.

  31. 'Tis Himself, OM says

    Stonyground #24

    He became persona non gratis after publishing the Age of Reason which riduculed Christianity. Please set me straight if I have any of this wrong.

    The phrase is persona non grata. Gratis means free, without charge or payment. Persona non grata usually a diplomatic term meaning “an unwelcome person,” a diplomat who cannot remain in the host country. However it can also mean a person who is ostracized or is considered figuratively nonexistent.

  32. says

    O’Reilly will pick up a million or more dollars this way and there will be a lot of people getting doorstops for Christmas. Not one in a thousand will get read.

    You know who else wrote a best-selling book that nobody actually read? That’s right…that’s right…

  33. Qwerty says

    Since we are guarenteed freedom of speech by our constitution, I suppose we have to put up with some of these twisted history books, but I have noticed that the right has be re-righting history for some time.

    They’re as awful at history as they are at science, but isn’t that to be expected as their favorite history book is the Bible.

  34. kantalope says

    It is a war on christmas…err I mean reality.

    Trouble is, when you get to the bottom of it, journalists are not generalists anymore — they wouldn’t know ginned up history if someone put it in a book and gave it to them.

    Facts go in, facts go out…you can’t explain that.

  35. crissakentavr says

    Think their ‘testing’ by ratings requires there to actually be a news program willing to say these things without being censored by the corporations.

    There hasn’t been, so no ratings information exists.

  36. Ava, Oporornis maledetta says

    Crazyharp #11: Is that the pamphlet “explaining” how the Grand Canyon was formed in Noah’s great flood? I was hoping that jackassedness was gone by now.

  37. bernarda says

    I would like to hear someone ask Bill O’Reilly how he avoided the draft. He was born on September 10th, 1949. The 1969 Nixon draft lottery included men from 1944 to 1950 and that date gave him the number 71. Men were drafted up to number 195. So what is Billo’s excuse? He seems to have been in good health as he was a football and baseball player.

    I wonder how many factual errors there would be in his response.

  38. lopsided says

    It’s because O’Reilly’s Lincoln errors don’t tell a revisionist story the right wing wants to brainwash the country with, backed by millions of dollars. He’s just wrong because he’s sloppy and not very smart. The other examples are not “mistakes,” they’re deliberate revisionist- narratives.

  39. louis14 says

    Koyote Ken@6:

    Bill O’Reilly wrote a history book filled with inaccuracies??

    In other news, the Sun rose in the east this morning……..

    Never a miscommunication!

  40. O. Nose says

    I’ll stick with Gore Vidal’s series of novels chronicling American history, thanks. Well-written, well researched, very witty…everything that Bill O’Reilly’s work ain’t.